Shout-Out to Mexican Coke

Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback

Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback

I Paid: $1.39 per 16-ounce bottle (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4 stars

Marketing: 5 stars

Out for less than a year, Pepsi and Mountain Dew “Throwback” flavors have just received a new eight-week lease on life, in response to what the company says is consumer demand.

Said demand is not hard to imagine. The products look awesome, with their clear and uncluttered retro-packaging. The claim of being made with real sugar also resonates in an era when high-fructose corn syrup is a high-profile villain (or scapegoat, depending on your stance), and when hipsters from coast to coast are universally aware that Mexican Coke boasts (a) real sugar and (b) better flavor than its American sibling.

Curious about the real versus psychological impact of sweetening agents on flavor, I tried a six-shot blind taste test. Three of the shots were either Throwback Mountain Dew or the standard-issue stuff, and three were either Throwback Pepsi or normal Pepsi.

Although the Throwback versions of Mountain Dew and Pepsi look and cost exactly the same as their contemporary counterparts, the flavor varies enough that the old and the new can be sniffed out blind. Throwback Pepsi has a deeper “spiced” flavor and a smoother finish that makes it taste a bit more exotic—and, frankly, better—than the HFCS equivalent. The difference with Throwback Mountain Dew is less dramatic: less acidic, less carbonated, and a bit more orange-flavored than the modern incarnation. Again, better, although not as outrageously as the Pepsi.

You might think that there would be a one-to-one cannibalization factor going on: every bottle of Throwback deleting a purchase of the modern version. That may not be the case, however. If habitual HFCS-shunners and boutique-soda drinkers add Throwback to their list of soda choices, these old-school products have the possibility of giving a little boost to the bottom line of PespiCo.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.